While he was pope in 2011-12, Benedict XVI laicized (the proper term for de-frocking) about 400 priests who had abused minors, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
It’s certainly news that the Vatican, however, begrudgingly, has released some statistics in this global scandal. But was it effective in creating a safer world for young people?
According story by ABC Radio religion blogger in Australia, the retired bishop of Sydney Geoffrey Robinson, author of the book Confronting sex and power in the Catholic church, explained this it this way,
“Laicisation removes a priest from the clerical state. It removes church obligations for upkeep towards the resulting “non-priest”. But it also severs the ties of mutual responsibility between the ex-priest and the church. The church is no longer canonically responsible for the ex-priest.”
Translation — the offender is on the loose. The church has ”no authority or ability to direct or compel an offender.”
Stripping off the clerical collar will kick a priest off the church’s payroll and pension plan. But de-frocking comes at the price. No one knows, or controls, where they go next or whether they continue to molest children. Remember, it doesn’t take a legal conviction and official sex offender status for the church to choose to remove a credibly accused offender.
Survivor groups have called for more than a decade for the church to deal with abusive priests — and ex priests — by releasing their names and some dioceses have done so. Hundreds more names have come to light through documents forced into the open by court cases.
But which is better? To keep offenders under church eyes? Or to let them go out into the world, names not necessarily known?
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